People’s Express will provide the city with transportation services for at least three more years. Most likely.
At the Dec. 17 meeting, Saline City Council voted unanimously to award a three-year contract to the private Whitmore Lake-based company. It’s worth $45,423 annually. The city does have the option of terminating the contract should better services be found.
City leaders haven’t always been thrilled with the service provided by People’s Express. In recent years, city leaders have talked with officials at The Ride about bringing more comprehensive public transportation to city residents. But demand for such service is questionable and the city hasn’t been interested in adding a large line item to its budget.
“I had hoped some years ago that at this point we would have more robust public transportation options in Saline. Clearly, the framework for that has not developed. That’s something that’s beyond our control,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar. “So, I’m fully in favor of this and I support (the People’s Express contract). The fact there is a termination clause should newer services be offered gives me a little bit of hope.”
The agency offers rides to people traveling within the city or to locations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Rides must be arranged at least 30 hours in advance (by calling 877-214-6073). Fares for seniors, people with disabilities and low-income residents are $2 for a one-way trip in the city and to destinations within two miles of the city limits. Fares for out-of-town trips vary, but are $6 or less for the most common destinations, according to the city’s website. But trips can only be arranged between 10 a.m. and two p.m. and buses run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So convenience is limited.
Councilor Dean Girbach asked DPW Director Jeff Fordice, who arranged the contract with People’s Express, if the city has surveyed users to see if the service meets their needs. Fordice said the public hasn’t been surveyed.
“We get feedback and we haven’t received any complaints, in at least 18 months,” Fordice said.
Although not addressed in the contract by council, People’s Express will continue serving the city with a second bus. The contract covers the shuttle running within the city. A federal grant pays for a second bus that transports people to and from out-of-town locations.
Mayor Brian Marl said his office periodically receives feedback about the service.
“For the most part it is extremely positive. The one comment I’ve received is that there are some people in the community who would like a fixed route service. They feel like that would benefit them and their loved ones. Unfortunately, we’re just not able to provide that,” Marl said. “People value the service more since we got that second bus.”
Before the addition of the grant-funded bus, a trip carrying people out of town meant would drastically limit the ability of the service to provide shorter trips within the city limits.
Marl agreed with TerHaar.
“This is not a perfect service. I’m an advocate for public transit and I would love to see a day when we were able to provide more to our citizens if it was a financially viable option for us. We’re not there yet,” Marl said. “But this is a valuable service for many in our community and I’m glad we continue to offer it.”
Some may question the need for public transportation in the days of Uber and Lyft. But some have complained the availability of these options is spotty in Saline. They're also more expensive. According to Uber, a trip from Saline to Domino's Farms in Ann Arbor costs $29.
The following information about People’s Express service is from the City of Saline website.
The City of Saline subsidizes the cost of transit services for low-income and senior citizens through People’s Express. People’s Express bus transportation is available to residents of Saline for transportation within the City of Saline and to certain destinations in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.
Reservations must be made 30 hours in advance. On demand rides are available only as time permits. For confirmed reservations, please call 1-877-214-6073 between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. After hours voice messages are accepted Monday through Friday. Cancellations must be made at least two hours prior to pick-up time.
Transit services are available Monday through Friday between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. Service is not available on weekends and People’s Express is closed on normal holidays.
The fare is $2.00 for one-way trip within the City and to select nearby destinations. Fares for out of town trips vary with the destination but are $6.00 or less for the most common trip destinations.